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Five nations seek war crimes probe in Palestinian territories

israeli soldiers operate, amid the ongoing ground operation of the israeli army against palestinian islamist group hamas, in a location given as gaza strip
Israeli soldiers operate, amid the ongoing ground operation of the Israeli army against Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in a location given as Gaza Strip in this screengrab obtained from a video released on November 17, 2023. Israel Defense Forces/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Friday said he had received a joint request from five countries to investigate the situation in the Palestinian territories.

Prosecutor Karim Kahn said the referral had come from South Africa, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Comoros and Djibouti. South Africa said the request was made “to ensure that the ICC pays urgent attention to the grave situation in Palestine.”

The ICC already has an ongoing investigation into “the situation in the State of Palestine” for alleged war crimes committed since June 13, 2014.

Last month ,Kahn said that his office had jurisdiction both over Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct. 7 and any crimes committed as part of Israel’s response including bombings in the Gaza Strip.

Because an investigation was already under way, Friday’s request will have limited practical impact.

In a statement, the prosecutor’s office said it had so far “collected a significant volume of information and evidence” on crimes in the Palestinian territories and also committed by Palestinians.

Israel is not a member of the court and does not recognise its jurisdiction.

The ICC can investigate nationals of non-member states in certain circumstances, including when crimes are alleged to have been committed in the territories of member states. The Palestinian territories have been listed among the ICC’s members since 2015.

A court of last resort, the ICC prosecutes individuals for alleged criminal conduct when its 124 member states are unwilling or unable to prosecute themselves.

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